Revell 1/81 SM-62 Snark Missile

KIT #: H-1801
PRICE: $.89 in 1958, but more later
DECALS: Development/Prototype markings
REVIEWER: Blair Stewart
NOTES: Reissued as a History Maker Kit in 1982 and an SSP kit in 2011


The Northrop SM-62 Snark was a specialized intercontinental cruise missile with a W39 nuclear warhead operated by the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 1958 until 1961. It takes its name from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of the Snark.”

The Snark was developed to offer a nuclear deterrent to the Soviet Union at a time when intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were still in development. It was the only intercontinental surface-to-surface cruise missile ever deployed by the United States Air Force. The subsequent deployment of ICBMs rendered the Snark obsolete and the Air Force took it out of service.

The Snark program began in 1945. Its objective was to produce a subsonic (600-mile-per-hour) cruise missile capable of delivering a 2,000-pound nuclear or conventional warhead to a range of 5,000 miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of less than 1.75 miles. Initially, the Snark used a turbojet engine and an inertial navigation system, with a complementary stellar navigation monitor to provide intercontinental range.

By 1950, due to the yield requirements of nuclear warheads, the design payload had changed to 5,000 pounds, accuracy requirements shrank the CEP to 1,500 feet, and range increased to more than 6,200 miles. These design changes forced the military to cancel the first Snark program in favor of a “Super Snark,” or Snark II. Initially there were two missiles - a subsonic design (the MX775A Snark) and a supersonic design (the MX775B Boojum).

Budget reductions threatened the project in its first year, but the intervention of Jack Northrop and Carl Spaatz saved the project. Despite this, funding was low and the program was dogged by requirement changes. The expected due date of 1953 passed with the design still in testing and SAC was becoming less enthusiastic. In 1955, Eisenhower ordered top priority to the ICBM and associated missile programs. The original designation was B-62.

Despite considerable difficulties with the missile and military reservations about it, work on the Snark continued. In the 1957 tests the missile had a CEP of only 17 nautical miles. By 1958, the celestial navigation system used by the Snark allowed its most accurate test, which appeared to fall four nautical miles short of the target. However, this apparent failure was at least partially because the British Navigation Charts used to determine the position of Ascension Island were based on position determination techniques less accurate than those used by the Snark. The missile landed where Ascension Island would be found if more accurate navigation methods had been used when developing the chart.

Even with the decreased CEP, the missile’s design was notoriously unreliable, with the majority of tests suffering mechanical failure thousands of miles before reaching the target. Other factors, such as the reduction in operating altitude from 150,000 to 55,000 feet and the inability of the system to detect countermeasures and perform evasive maneuvers, also reduced the Snark’s credibility as a strategic deterrent.

The jet powered, 52 feet long unmanned aircraft had a top speed of 650 mph and a maximum range of 5,500 nautical miles. The complex stellar navigation guidance system gave a claimed CEP of 8,000 ft. It was designed to carry the W-39 warhead, which reportedly had a nuclear yield of about 3.8 megatons.

The Snark was an air-breathing design, launched from a light platform by two booster engines ( known as jet assisted take off, or “JATO”). It switched to an internal jet engine for the remainder of its flight. The jet was a Pratt and Whitney J57, the first 10,000 lb. thrust design, which was also used in the early B-52 and the F-100. Lacking a horizontal tail, the missile used elevons as its primary flight control surfaces, and flew an unusual nose high aspect during level flight. During the final phase of flight the nuclear warhead separated from the missile's main body and followed a ballistic trajectory to the target. Upon separation, due to the abrupt shift in its center of gravity, the missile body performed an abrupt pitch-up maneuver to avoid colliding with the warhead.

One advanced feature of the Snark was its ability to fly missions of up to 11 hours and return for a landing. If the warhead did not detach, the missile could be flown repeatedly. Lacking landing gear, it was necessary for the Snark to skid to a stop on a flat, level surface.

The 556th Strategic Missile Squadron was activated on December 15, 1957. Training and testing was done at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida where the 556th successfully launched the first Snark on June 27, 1958. Originally, the Snark was to be mounted on a highly mobile launcher and was to be dispersed over a wide area and moved from location to location. However, the Air Force felt cost, security, and the urgency to get the system deployed ruled this out and in 1957 selected Presque Isle, Maine, near the Canadian border, as the location for the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing.

During 1958, SAC's commander, General Thomas Powers, requested the program be revaluated.  He then recommended it be canceled, as the technology was obsolete.  Headquarters USAF overrode his objections and decided to continue a limited Snark program that called for the operational deployment of one Snark squadron. It was to be the existing 556th SMS.

The 702nd Strategic Missile Wing was the only Snark Missile Wing.  It was established on June 17, 1958, and was activated on Jan. 1, 1959.  It was assigned to the 45th Air Division from January 1, 1959 to June 25, 1961.  It performed Snark intercontinental missile test operations from Patrick AFB, FL from April to July 1959, and from the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral, FL from December 1959 to June 1961.  The 556th SMS was assigned to the 702nd SMW on April 1, 1959, but was deactivated only six weeks later, on July 16, 1959.  It never moved to Presque Isle.  The planned activation of the 702nd Missile Maintenance Squadron was also cancelled.  This put the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing in the unique position of having no assigned subordinate units. All operational and maintenance functions associated with the Snark missile were handled by the 702nd SMW's deputy commander for missiles.

The 702nd SMW placed the first Snark on alert on March 18, 1960, and by the end of fiscal year 1960, a total of four Snark missiles were on strategic alert. But it was not until February 28, 1961 that SAC was able to declare the 702nd SMW operational. Shortly after taking office in 1961, John F. Kennedy scrapped the project. SAC’s negative evaluation of the Snark's potential was reinforced on March 28, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy, in a special defense budget message, directed the phase out of the missile because it was "obsolete and of marginal military value" relative to intercontinental ballistic missiles. The President cited the weapon's low reliability (a particularly sore point to his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara), inability to penetrate, lack of positive control, and vulnerable, unprotected launch sites. Accordingly, in June 1961, SAC deactivated the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing at Presque Isle AFB, less than four months after it had been declared operational.

The retired Snark missiles were probably sent to Davis-Monthan AFB and converted to scrap metal, as they had no military value and could not be used in connection with the space program.

As an aside, The 556th SMS was reactivated on October 1, 1961, and assigned to Plattsburgh AFB, New York, where it took charge of the only Atlas Missile Complex east of the Mississippi River.  Presque Isle AFB was re-designated Presque Isle Air National Guard Facility, but it was short lived.  The base was soon retired and converted to a regional airport, technical college, housing area, and industrial park.  It contains a small museum honoring the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing.


In keeping with my latest “sickness” of trying to re-create my youth through the plastic model kits I grew up with in the fifties and sixties, I couldn’t resist taking a crack at this old Revell standard. In 1958, with the space race heating up (The USSR’s Sputnik I launch on October 4, 1957 was followed by the US’ launch of the Explorer I on January 31, 1958. How well I remember that date: my dad and I were watching the Friday night fights on NBC’s “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports” on a black and white TV set when they interrupted the broadcast to announce the launch), Revell began to offer models of space age missiles to the public. Among that group was kit H-1801, the Northrop Air Force SM-62 Snark. The kit was originally molded in red plastic, with a movable launch platform and two small figures. Jack Leynnwood painted the box art, which depicted a fiery launch of a Snark, clad in its prototype/test markings. The kit consisted of some 25 parts and the two figures. Decals were for the prototype/test missile, which was bright red with extensive white markings to aid in visibility during test launches.

Revell’s Snark captures the look of the original quite nicely. It does model the Pitot tube as coming out of the top of the missile’s nose rather than the point. In pictures I could find on the internet, there appear to have been both configurations during testing, although I am not sure which was finally adopted for the operational missiles. The launch platform is quite simple, and includes the launcher carriage assembly, a fuel tank, and access platforms.

In its 1958 attempt to cash in on the space race, Revell ended up introducing some 29 different missile and space model kits. Other modeling companies, primarily Aurora and Monogram, soon followed suit with their own missile and space kits. Unfortunately, these kits were not good sellers.

This and other Revell kits were known as “box scale” models; that is, to solve the problem of maintaining a constant scale in its various model types, Revell adopted the approach of scaling these kits to fit specific size boxes and sell at certain price points. Thus, the Revell Snark turned out to be the now odd scale of 1/81, which is very close to model railroading’s HO scale.


I wanted to build this kit as another example model for my kit collection display (and to add it to my recently completed Revell F-94C Starfire). Although I had a History Makers version of this kit, I opted to purchase one of the 2011 Selected Subjects Program (SSP) versions for this build.

As one can expect, this is not an overly difficult kit to assemble, given its low parts count; however, bringing it up to today’s modeling standards does require a little extra work.

I began by gluing the fuselage halves together and mounting the air scoop to the right fuselage half. I then assembled the two JATO tubes and put them aside to dry. Next, I glued the wing assembly to the fuselage. At this stage, I left off the pitot tube for a later time to avoid the possibility of breaking it off during handling.

The wing-to-fuselage joint and the fuselage joint required some filing and sanding to smooth them out. I applied Mr. Surfacer 1000 to these joints and then wet sanded them with a medium grit sanding stick from the Squadron Shop. Once I was satisfied with these joints, I then used a Micro Mesh sanding pad and wet sanding to remove the “golf ball sized” rivets and the raised decal placement lines that were so prevalent on these earlier kits. I was not too worried about loosing some of the raised panel lines in the process, as, in this scale, these are not as noticeable as one would think on the finished model.

I then assembled the two wing tanks. The next step was to smooth out the tank joints via wet sanding. I also had to do the same for the two JATO tubes. Once the wing tank joints were properly smoothed, I then glued the tanks to the missile fuselage. Since I was going to paint the JATO tubes white, I did not glue them to the missile at this time.

The next step was to move to the launch platform. The most “complex” piece of this is the launcher assembly, which consists of eight parts. I assembled these, and then put them aside for painting. The only other assembly that was left at this stage was to glue the launcher fuel tank halves together. After cleaning up the seam, I glued this to the launcher base.


 After looking at the markings included in the kit, I decided that I didn’t particularly relish the idea of displaying this model in its developmental/test markings and red color. Red is a hassle to prevent from “bleeding” through colors applied over it, and the numerous white markings were going to present a bleed problem of the first order.

The SM-62 Snark on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio is painted in SAC’s operational colors, so I opted for this scheme. I could use a few of the kit’s decals, but a majority of the markings would have to come from my scrap box or other scrounged from other kits. The overall color of the operational missile was aircraft gray and white JATO tubes.  

For the overall gray color scheme, I chose Fresh & Easy rattle can matte gray spray enamel I picked up at a local Lowe’s.  This paint is cheap and provided good coverage over the red plastic.

For the launcher assembly, I chose Model Master Chrome Yellow, which is gloss paint. To reduce the bleed problem, I first sprayed the launcher assembly with Humbrol’s bright silver, and then applied the Chrome Yellow paint over this base coat. I painted the launcher base with the Fresh & Easy matte gray. I then masked off the rails on the base and sprayed them with Testors aluminum.

Once everything was thoroughly dry, I started the decal process. At first, I thought I would be lazy and just gloss the missile with a rattle can of Rustoleum Clear Gloss. For some reason, however, this left a beautiful but somewhat yellow hue on the gray paint. After kicking myself for attempting a short cut, I decided to repaint the missile with the matte gray and start over. I determined that I would then resort to my old standby of using puddles of Future floor wax to set my decals.

I happened to have an old Microscale sheet of national insignias in various sizes, so I chose some from that sheet that were close to the kit decals (the kit national insignias are printed in conjunction with the test white markings, and, while they can be used, would require careful cutting to eliminate the white markings surrounding them).

One of the dilemmas was the angle of the national insignias: in some pictures, the wing insignia are placed at 90 degrees to the fuselage; in others, they are parallel to the wing’s leading edge. Likewise, the large national insignia on the fuselage sides are sometimes parallel to the fuselage and other times are seen as slanted at an angle. I opted for setting the wing insignia like they appear on most U.S. aircraft, but then chose the slanted position for the fuselage insignia. After looking at the picture of the operational missile from the Air Force Museum, it was hard to tell if these insignia are slanted or straight. I am sure there is some old SAC crew chief out there somewhere in modeling land that can set me straight on this issue! The only other built-up kit in operational markings I have been able to find on the web is Phil Brandt's build of the Lindberg Snark, (obviously Blair missed your editor's build of April 2011. Ed) and Phil also opted to cant the fuselage insignia (as they say in the legal profession, “precedence, baby!”).

For the SAC star ribbons and shields, I pirated these from a Minicraft 1/144 scale Boeing KC-97G Stratotanker. Once I had defiled the decal sheet, I continued to steal the U.S. Air Force markings from the same sheet (yes, I know, I have just kicked the can down the road if I ever get around to assembling the Minicraft kit. Oh well, the choices us modelers must make!). Finally, for the white fuselage band and the three red bands around the missile’s engine, I used decals from old Scale Master striping sheets I have had in my stash for close to 20 or more years. These were somewhat fussy, but after a lot of trial and error, I got them to look half way decent on the model.

All of the decals on the launcher were from the kit, and these went on nicely. After all of the decals set, I sprayed the missile and some parts of the launcher with Testors Dullcote to cut down the gloss of the decals and the areas where I had applied Future to facilitate the adherence of the decals to the model.

After the decals were dry, I hand-painted various parts of the launcher. I also painted the inside of the air intake, the exhaust, and the two JATO tube exhausts with Humbrol flat black. I masked off the intake and hand painted the edge with Humbrol flat black.

The final assembly consisted of placing the model on the launcher stand.


Here was another nostalgic return for me to the modeling days of my youth. Given its age and simplistic construction, I think it stacks up well when it’s assembled and finished using today’s modeling techniques. If you are looking for a very quick “space and missile era” build, I highly recommend this old Revell kit.


1.      SM-62 Snark, Wikipedia, March 2012.


2.      Northrop SM-62 "Snark,", March 2012.


3.      Rocket and Missile System: The Snark, Encyclopedia Brittanica On-line, March 2012.


4.      Graham, Thomas, “Remembering Old Revell Model Kits,” Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, PA, 2004.

Blair Stewart

April 2012

Thanks to my wallet for the review kit. You should still be able to find this kit at some local hobby shops.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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